"My ambition was and still is to do something in Antigua that really makes a difference for people who suffer disabilities." That statement rolled very easily of the lips of Dr Patrick Matthews when asked why he devoted his life to the NSA (National Stroke Association) clinic in Paynters..
"You see," he continues, "each patient is a unique individual and there are many facets that make them unique. Everyone has abilities and we should strive 100 percent to use those abilities. Just because you can't, for example, walk, doesn't mean you are useless to society.
We at NSA medical centre wish to bring back hope and provide options for disabled people to have a productive future."
Dr Matthews points out that there is a big misconception about the rehabilitation centre. He explains that many people think a visit to the clinic is just about massaging one's neck or back. But according to the specialist, true rehabilitation is about restoring those who are injured, maimed and disabled to the highest degree of functioning possible.
Reverend Aymer, who has been a stroke patient for over a year now, adds, "I am very pleased with my results here at the centre.
My recovery is incremental but definite. I can walk now." He is quick to add that rehab and emergency technician Peter Stoute pushes him to the limit. He notes that compared to the US, where he spent some time in rehab after his stroke in 2006, the treatment here is much more intense.
"I would recommend this clinic any time, and on a scale from 1 to 10 I would give it a 9, just because I do not like to give full marks," he adds laughing. "And so would I," says Ato Lewis, who found himself paralyzed after a car accident. "They push me to the limit here and I enjoy that approach."
Next to the physical treatment offered, NSA also lives up to its name by providing support for those who are disabled. In the past, there used to be monthly meetings for patients and their families, but that formula has been fine tuned to a more regular happening. Now they can meet daily at NSA because of a new daycare program. From 9 am until 5 pm they get physical therapy, individual therapy and group therapy.
Group and individual counseling is also provided by Dr Jerry Simon, who deals with most medical cases at the clinic.
As for the cost, Dr Matthews says it all depends on what someone can afford. Some people just can't afford any treatment whatsoever, and it would be wrong to send them back onto the street. Unfortunately, that attitude does come with a price. They found themselves with about 40 percent of the patients not able to pay their bills, and because of that the clinic does not make any profit and once even faced bankruptcy.
But it is interesting to see that what comes around goes around. Their generosity did not go unnoticed, and an anonymous benefactor who understood their vision stepped in and bailed them out. Now, they have even been able to expand with a new surgical unit, recovery room, overnight facilities and therapy pool.
"We hope to have that finished by June this year," Dr Matthews says. He admits that he is happy the days of struggle are over.
The help and support of his right hand, Dominique Morgan, doesn't go unnoticed either. For eight years now ,she has proven herself to be a woman of all trades. From working as a rehab technician, to writing reports, to administration and being an allergy testing technician, it seems like nothing is too much for her and she does it all with a smile and a positive attitude. "My work is very satisfying and challenging at the same time," she says.
She elaborates a bit more about the clinic, saying, "A lot of people contribute to the clinic being a success. Scotty is our number one paratrans van driver. He works for the government and has been dutifully bringing and collecting disabled patients for years.
Then there is Dr Simon (family physician), Dr Evanson (internal medicine), Dr.Wagentrotz (homeopathy), Dr Bekal (surgery) and Dr Bowen (neurosurgery) and Peter Stoute (rehab and emergency technician)."
It is always great to have a vision and to keep expanding on that vision. "We are not done," says Dr Matthews, "until we are a true Caribbean physical rehab centre with emphasis on orthopedic and neurosurgical injuries as well as meeting people's medical and surgical needs. And add to that an in-house care facility and the vision is complete."
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